For some, stairs are simply a means to get from one floor level to the next. Others, like us, view stairways as a potential work of art. Stairs can definitely add architectural beauty to a home. An easy way to customise a stairwell is simply with paint.
Most Victorian staircases have seen decades of wear and tear and tend to show their age. Although really serious, unfixable, problems are pretty rare, and the issues are usually not of a structural nature. Most restoration work can be carried out on the surface.
However, most people still see restoring the staircase as a big job. It’s understandable that replacement can look like a more attractive option. But before you get to this stage, keep in mind that most old staircases do not conform to building standards. A much greater effort will be involved in replacing them than you may anticipate.
Period staircases tend to be made using fairly simple joinery construction. They are easily repairable if you’re willing to have a little patience and use a bit of ingenuity – and skill. The biggest obstacle is often getting access to behind the stairs especially if the underside forms the sloping ceiling of a lower flight. But this isn’t an issue in every case.
A brief description of the work involved: Our Victorian staircase restoration service is dedicated to bringing back the beautiful look of your staircase and extending its lifetime and refreshing your home appearance.
Many old Victorian staircases have layer upon layer of paint to tackle. Owners are frequently tempted to get out the belt sander and start stripping it away. If the staircase has been painted before the 1960s, there’s a good chance that old paint will contain lead and so stripping it off by hand is not safe unless it is done by a professional (see the advice on the British Coatings Federation website – do not try to do this yourself). Lead is extremely hazardous and continued exposure can lead to kidney damage, brain damage and infertility. You can get lead testing kits from most DIY stores but they shouldn’t be completely relied on – the safest approach is to assume pre-1960s paint will contain lead and treat it as such.
If the surface is smooth, repainting over the old paint is a safer option. If there’s a lot of wear in the centre of the staircase, consider adding a runner and carpet rods for a safer overall approach and a beautiful look.
Repairing Worn Treads
One of the most common issues with period staircases is worn out treads. Fortunately, this part of restoring an old staircase repair is pretty straightforward and can be carried out from the top. First, the over-worn area will have to be carefully cut away, and then a new piece of decent quality softwood needs to be spliced in, usually with little bearers that are introduced underneath the patched areas, thereby providing additional support.
Creaks and Squeaks
Creaky treads are common in old period properties and part of the charm of the building! These creaks and squeaks are caused by timbers rubbing together and they can be fixed. The first job you have is to figure out the exact spot – and it can be handy to get help from someone else to tread the boards in order to find the problem spot.
Sometimes fixing the creaks is as simple as using screws to close up any obvious gaps. However, other areas, such as the junction between the tread and the riser, may require a different approach. Thin strips of wood that are planed across their width to slight tapers can be used to good effect. Just spread the strips with glue (foaming glue is my favourite) and then hammer them into the gaps. Once you have done the repair, you should make sure nobody uses the staircase until the glue has fully dried.
A few additional points to consider:
- We use state of the art sanding equipment connected to dust extractors which allows our work to be 'dustless'. Actually in practice it’s impossible to work completely dust free as small particles will always escape to the surrounding air.
- Also be prepared it is noisy work, this is mainly due to the friction of the abrasives over the wood surface.
We hope that you now know how to best approach Victorian staircase restoration.